The first thing people notice when they meet Ryan Robison, 29, is the genuine warmth in his eyes and voice.
If you ask his mom, Robin Brown, ““Ryan has a servant’s heart. His demeanor in life has always been ‘how can I serve?’ and ‘what can I do for others?’”
“He is very professional, and he always has been,” she said.
And while any mother is bound to say the same thing, Robison’s story bares that out.
Robison was born in Cushing, Oklahoma, and moved to Verdigris in the fifth grade.
In high school, he was a page for Oklahoma Senator Burrage and bagged groceries at the Claremore Reasor’s.
He graduated class valedictorian from Verdigris High School in 2008.
“Ryan is very sharp, dedicated young man,” Robison’s stepfather Claremore Police Chief Stan Brown said.
Robison studied at Tulsa Community College for two years before graduating Summa Cum Laude from OSU in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in management information systems, a mix between information technology and business.
He was recruited out of college by Cerner, a tech company that specializes in health care out of Kansas City, where he worked for four years before moving back to Oklahoma to work at AT&T.
While in Kansas City he volunteered for a local law enforcement agency.
“He’s always had a mind for service,” Stan said. “He’s always wanted to serve in some capacity, whether it be public safety or the military.”
Robison worked at AT&T as a field technician for two years, but he wasn’t satisfied.
“I’ve always been successful at every company that I’ve worked with, but never really felt fulfilled,” Robison said. “It felt like I was always building the company’s empire instead of actually serving people. And that is what attracted to me to the armed forces.”
“I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted a career I felt had meaning,” he said.
After talking with a recruiter Robison applied and was accepted for 12 weeks of Officer Candidate School.
When he told Robin his plan, she cried.
“I am not from a military family, so this has been new to me,” Robin said. “I now see the sacrifice that families make in order to cure our country and give us the freedoms we have every day. That, to me, is almost overwhelming.”
Robin made a shirt that she wears with pride, which says “I used to protect him, now he protects me.”
The officer training program has three phases.
The first three weeks comprise the indoctrination phase – a crash course in military expectations and culture.
The academics phase, which lasts six weeks, includes all the courses applicable to being an officer in the Navy.
The last three weeks is the applied leadership phase, in which officer candidates lead the lowerclassmen of officer school (people in their first nine weeks) and are responsible for making and filing reports.
He graduated from in January and completed eight additional weeks of training for his position as a surface warfare officer.
This week Ensign Robison left for his station in Norfolk, Virginia, on the Destroyer “James E. Williams,” named after a Naval Medal of Honor recipient in the Vietnam War.
“I would like him to be on a ship as opposed to his other choice to be in law enforcement,” Robin said, protectively. “At least he has a big ship around him instead of walking around on the street.”
As a surface warfare officer, Robison will serve as key member of his ship, likely working in engineering due to his past experience. His position on the ship hasn’t been officially assigned.
“While, lets just say, I’m doing engineering on the ship, in the grand scheme of things I’m helping to defend America,” he said.
Naval officer promotions happen at the two-year and four-year mark, and then occur based on merit and service thereafter. Robison plans to stay with the Navy for a full 20-year career.
To the young people following in Robison’s footsteps he said, “Find your passion. Find something you are really good at and develop that skill. Become a master at whatever craft, trade or profession you want to enter.”
For those joining the military, Robison said, “Keep in mind that attitude is everything. Your service in the military will be what you want of it. It can be four years of misery or the best four years of your life.”
And to everyone else, “Oklahoma, and Claremore especially, is very pro-military,” he said. “People always say ‘Thank you for your service’ to us, but I want to bounce that right back and say ‘Thank you for your support.’”